Mariners Hultzen Hangs Zeros in Double-A

On April eighth, Mariners top pitching prospect Danny Hultzen allowed five earned runs in his first Double-A start. Since then, the University of Virginia product has taken the hill a dozen times for the Jackson Generals allowing only five additional earned runs. This stretch of consecutive dominant outings has Mariners fans and prospect fans alike wondering how long it will take for Hultzen to be called up to the show. His success has left me wondering if as a child, Danny Hultzen was the type to constantly ask his parents “are we there yet?” on long road trips. If so, then the left-hander is probably busy texting “Is it time yet?” to Mariners higher-ups as his combination of stuff and performance is Seattle ready.

However, for as ready as Hultzen is to contribute at the big league level, his stuff was down from my first look at him on a Friday night against Georgia Tech in 2011 while playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In that game, Hultzen worked full innings in the mid-90′s mixing in a mid-80′s slider and low-to-mid 80′s changeup with great success. In Chattanooga, I had the opportunity to watch a more toned down, workmanlike Hultzen who presented as a much different pitcher now than he did just a year ago. Gone were the mid-90′s readings on the radar gun and slider. Present was a low-90′s fastball and upper 70′s curveball which allowed Hultzen to pitch at three distinct speeds.

Additionally, the deep crouch he pitched from in college was a bit more conventional this time around. Changes to Hultzen’s throwing motion included a lower 3/4 arm slot, as well as a tendency to throw even more across his body than he did previously. On the whole, this caused his pitches to be a bit flatter and made it difficult at times to finish pitches. This may be responsible for his command not being quite as sharp as I remembered and for a number of pitches sitting up-and-out to right-handed hitters. Even so, Hultzen navigated in-and-out of tight spots with the ease of a veteran many years his senior and presented as in complete control of the game on a day when his best stuff was not present.

At 90-92 MPH, touching 93, Hultzen’s fastball plays higher in game action as he’s still the best pitcher I’ve seen at hiding the baseball prior to the pitch. Instead of batters picking up the ball “in the window” just before the typical pitcher releases the ball, Hultzen’s pitches appear as if they are being shot out of his shoulder from behind home plate. This gives opposing hitters fits and alters their timing mechanism allowing 92 MPH to appear as if it’s 95 out of the hand. When down in the zone, Hultzen’s fastball still featured the same heavy sinking action which should produce ground balls by the bushel. However, he had trouble finding a consistent release point causing balls to sail up-and-out whenever he did not finish out front. In retrospect, his being a bit “wild in the zone” did help adjust eye levels and keep hitters off-balance. And on a day where he definitely could have been more sharp, his fastball still profiled as above average.

Hultzen’s curveball/slider was a 77-79 MPH offering with more downer action than his previous breaking ball. Where his mid-80′s slider cut across the plate, this hybrid pitch featured more downward action and less velocity. Labeling it a slurve can have negative connotations and this was a good pitch. The fact Hultzen’s breaking ball is still his third best pitch has not changed. What has changed is that a third offering which does not closely mirror his changeup like his slider did before will allow for even more pitchability and deception. Additionally, tweaking or swapping out a pitch altogether is very difficult to do and Hultzen accomplished it with ease. It’s a feat worth mentioning and speaks highly of his ability to make adjustments.

Maybe his best pitch, Hultzen’s changeup was a bit softer than last season at 81 MPH instead of the 82-85 MPH pitch witnessed pre-draft in 2011. However, this is of little concern because the velocity differential is strong at about 10 MPH. What is of slight concern is that his lower arm slot caused the pitch to float a bit too much for my liking at times leading to a loss a in sharp, late bite. The pitch flashed plus, but wasn’t the consistent plus offering seen last season.

For whatever reason, the baseball gods have looked upon me kindly in 2012 as I’ve now had the opportunity to scout picks two-through-four from the 2011 draft and may run into Gerrit Cole on a trip to upstate New York in a couple of weeks. In retrospect, I would be hard pressed to pass on Dylan Bundy at number one if the 2011 draft were held today. However, after speaking to contacts and seeing a few of the top college arms in person, the trio of Cole, Hultzen and Trevor Bauer are still pretty interchangeable at this point. And while Hultzen did not present with the electric stuff seen prior to the draft and in the Arizona Fall League, he still has a floor of an excellent third starter and quality start machine with the potential of a strong number two.




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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


9 Responses to “Mariners Hultzen Hangs Zeros in Double-A”

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  1. Adam says:

    And Gerrit Cole was just promoted to Double A. Still hit some good luck to catch the rest though.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Adam, I’m based out of Atlanta, but will be in upstate NY when he is supposed to pitch in Binghamton. This means I’ll probably get him too!

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      • Adam says:

        For some reason the Binghamton Mets didn’t click for Upstate NY. That should be great, is it a match up with Wheeler?

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  2. Disco Hero says:

    FINALLY!!! Someone who scouted Hultzen and didn’t say he has a mid 90′s fastball!! So tired of every “scout” suggesting that the top velo ever for a pitcher is what they always do, even if it’s in a different situation. I appreciate the honest report. Keep ‘em coming.

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  3. MC says:

    It seems Danny may well pan out. For all the talk about Jack Z on this site in hindsight a lot of moves that the time seemed great haven’t really come to fruition, namely:

    * Dustin Ackley
    * Justin Smoak trade
    * Brandon Morrow trade
    * Franklin Gutierrez contract

    etc

    As a wise man once said, “we shall see.”

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    • Eric Dykstra says:

      Ackley is fine, way too early to judge.
      Smoak is a work in progress, but probably unlikely to be very useful.
      Morrow trade was awful, and I don’t think it can be considered “good” even at the time of trade.
      Gutierrez deal was good, couldn’t foresee his non-injury health issues.

      And of course you’re missing some good things like the JJ Putz trade, the trade for Cliff Lee, and drafting Walker and Seager and getting far more out of them than most players chosen at those spots in the draft.

      With Hultzen, it looks like Z might have grabbed the best available and signable player, and he’s blown away expectations thus far.

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      • StillMissNiehaus says:

        Lee brought the Mariners: Smoak (the aforementioned “not likely to be useful”), Leuke (a P.R. disaster turned into the useful cult hero Jaso), Beavan (just recently sent back to AAA to maybe turn into a 5th starter) and Matt Lawson (who?).

        JJ Putz brought the Mariners…
        - Aaron Heilman (who?)
        - Endy Chavez (ignore Yuni breaking him and thus Chavez getting no time as an M; there was reason his nickname was “Inning-Endy Chavez”),
        - Gutierrez (yet another great-glove-not-much-bat, plus he can’t stay healthy)
        - Mike Carp (AAAA player with the range of a used bus)
        - Ezequiel Carrera, Maikel Cleto (so what and who cares)
        - Jason Vargas (the only legitimate player for more than one year in the entire lot here)

        But it’s also too early to tell about Walker because TINSTAAPP. And Morrow was never going to work out here, his issues and struggles were in his head as much as the Safeco fences are in Smoak’s head; he was a classic “needs a change of scenery” trade if ever there was one, and so whatever Seattle could get back, even the meltdown-prone League, was good. And on Z’s watch we got to see Ken “Sleepy” Griffey Jr.’s career implode.

        But hey, your points about Ackley and Seager are well taken. :)

        Overall, though… let’s not sing Z’s praises too loudly, here. Quantity does not equal quality and the ability to bargain hunt does not mean the ability to assemble a deep or talented roster. We’re into the 4th year of the grand rebuilding plan and we still have a last-place team that can’t hit its weight but with the promise of… well, more pitching… and these promising youngsters that look to be promising average careers at best.

        It’s been over a decade since 116 wins. How much longer do we Mariner fans have to wait for a real ballclub again?

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  4. Will says:

    StillMissNiehaus,

    Putz essentially netted the M’s Gutierrez, who has posted a 6+ WAR season in Seattle and is hands down the best defensive CF in baseball when healthy and also has shown some signs of life with the bat having posted an 18 HR season, Vargas who is a serviceable #3 starter for most clubs and Brendan Ryan who is a defensive wizard at SS (Cleto was traded to STL for Ryan). I think of Carp as an AAAA player as well but he’s started in LF for them for most of the season. I think it’s safe to say that four solid starting players is a darn good return for a guy that went on to NYM just to get injured and change his career for the worse.

    In regards to the Cliff Lee trade, he turned three no-name prospects in to Lee and then flipped Lee for a top-20 prospect in the game and former first round pick in Beavan. In hindsight it may not have panned out but Smoak has shown flashes of being a solid MLB player. I can’t say that “Z” did too bad of a job turning Gillies, Aumont, and Ramirez into a half season of Lee, our 1B in Smoak and a back-end SP in Beavan.

    The only things that he’s done that has made me look down on him in any way shape or form is trading Morrow for League (but in all honesty Morrow hasn’t amounted to much of anything and Bavasi screwed us over not picking Lincecum) and signing Figgins to the disaster of a contract. At the time Figgins was a legit 6 WAR player but a player like him should’t have been making $40 mil over 4 years.

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